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Ray Chen plays with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra / The Baltimore Sun review

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If you like your romanticism with extra layers of hot fudge -- I say bring it on -- this week's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra program is just the ticket.

Two super-lyrical, extra-passionate Russian works, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2, make a sumptuous, satisfying pair. Both were served up in rousing fashion Thursday night at Meyerhoff Hal.

Hans Graf, conductor laureate of the Houston Symphony, has a fine track record of inspiring guest appearances with the BSO; he added to that record on this occasion. And in his local debut, the fast-rising violinist Ray Chen gave notice of a distinctive musical personality.

As he demonstrated on a delectable Mozart recording with pianist/conductor Christoph Eschenbach for Sony, the 25-year-old Chen is capable of sustaining an exceptionally refined tone and elegant phrasing. It's very easy to hear on that disc the influence of his sterling teacher, Aaron Rosand, back in his student days at the Curtis Institute.

On Thursday, Chen showed just as persuasively that he can be edgy, volatile, even a little rough, too. His account of the Tchaikovsky concerto was a grabber from the start, partly because of the sheer tonal intensity. Where other fiddlers apply sweetness, this one kept things spicy. READ THE FULL Baltimore Sun REVIEW.